Did He Serve?

Week 6: #52 Ancestors – Same Name

By Eilene Lyon

When I put together the list of ten men who formed the Blackford Mining Company in 1851, two names made me groan: John K. Anderson and Samuel Jones. At least Anderson had a middle initial. But Samuel Jones, no middle initial? Argh!! How many men must there be with that same name?

At first, I didn’t realize both men are related to me. With luck, they’d both be living in Blackford County in the 1850 census. John was not, but there was a Samuel Jones in Jackson Township, living next door to Benjamin H. Jones (who turned out to be a brother).1

Excerpt from the 1850 U.S. Census for Samuel Jones.

Assuming he was the right man, I used the information from this census to start a Jones family tree. Ancestry does not do thorough searches when you just insert information into a search box. To maximize the results, you have to put the person you are researching into a family tree. I actually have more than one private research “tree” full of unconnected people.

One Ancestry tree with Sam Jones intrigued me. It didn’t have any attached records, but the tree’s owner appeared to have information (such as infants who died between census years) that must have come from family records. Also in this tree were the names of Samuel’s parents: Thomas Jones and Sarah Ransom. Aha!

I found records to support this conclusion: Sarah Ransom is the sister of my 3rd great-grandfather, James Ransom.2 That meant all her children were first cousins to James’s children, including my 2nd great-grandfather, Robert Ransom. Samuel Jones and his siblings are my 1st cousins 4 times removed.

Cropped image of Sarah Ransom Jones. (Courtesy of janeanne1939 at Ancestry.com)

The owner of the tree turned out to be a descendent of Samuel’s younger brother, William G. Jones. She had a transcript of information from William’s family Bible and sent me copies, along with other family material, including photos of Sarah Ransom Jones and William G. Jones and family. But she had no photos or other information about Sam Jones aside from what was in the Bible record.

Page from Samuel Jones’s family Bible. The births of his children are recorded in the upper portion of the right-hand column. (E. Lyon)

Fortunately, Sam’s wife and children all had less common names with middle initials. Using them helped me put together a timeline for Sam. Eventually I tracked down a descendant through his daughter, Josephine. This cousin has family photos, including the daguerreotype I shared last year that is almost certainly Sam Jones. She also has the Sam Jones family Bible.

1850s daguerreotype believed to be Samuel Jones (1824-1908). (Courtesy of J. W. Beck)

Among all the events I’ve collected for Sam, one stands out, because it may or may not belong to him. Which leaves me with the question: Did “my” Samuel Jones serve the Union during the Civil War?

In the 1860 and 1870 censuses, Sam’s family was living in Moccasin Township, Effingham County, Illinois.3 There appear to be no other Sam Joneses in Effingham County in either census. He purchased property there on July 18, 1861.4 Samuel Jones was born April 2, 1824 in Belmont County, Ohio, and would have been 37 years old at that time.5

A few weeks later, on August 2, a Samuel Jones of Effingham County enlisted in Company A, 26th Regiment Illinois Volunteers for 3 years of service. He was discharged for an unknown disability on February 16, 1862.6

In July 1863, a Samuel Jones was registered for the Civil War draft in Moccasin Township, Effingham County, but the registrar recorded no information other than names.7

Jones Samuel is included in this July 1863 Civil War draft registry for Moccasin Township, Effingham County. This man is undoubtedly my cousin, but does not prove the earlier period of service belongs to him. (Ancestry.com)

I requested the service record for Private Samuel Jones, Co. A, 26th Illinois from the National Archives, which confirms the information I found earlier at the Family History Library (and later in Ancestry.com). One small detail does not add up, though.

On the muster card for his enlistment on August 2, 1861, the age for Samuel is given as 43, not 37.8 It’s important to note that these muster cards are not original sources – they were transcribed from an original roster at a later date, introducing another opportunity for error. Each card for Pvt. Jones has the same signature at the bottom with the title “Copyist.”

Muster card
Copy of muster roll information for Pvt. Samuel Jones. (National Archives)

Since I cannot find another Samuel Jones fitting this description in Effingham County or even surrounding counties, I suspect the age might be an error. But there is room for doubt. It doesn’t appear that my Samuel Jones ever applied for a pension. Given that he was a prosperous businessman and investor, that is not surprising.

Did he serve? Or not?


Update: After writing this post, I did another search on Ancestry and found one other record for Private Samuel Jones, Co A, 26th Illinois. This one states that he was born in 1818 (age 43 at enlistment), born in Pennsylvania, single, farmer, residence in Effingham County, discharged for rheumatism. Clearly not my man! However, I still cannot locate this farmer in the 1860 or 1870 censuses for Effingham County, nor I have found other evidence for him. For now, I must conclude my cousin Sam did NOT serve. https://www.ilsos.gov/isaveterans/civilMusterSearch.do

Feature image: Camp Butler near Springfield, Illinois, where Pvt. Samuel Jones mustered in and trained for service in the Civil War. (Wikimedia Commons)

  1. Samuel Jones. Year: 1850; Census Place: Jackson, Blackford, Indiana; Roll: 136; Page: 39A – via Ancestry.com. 
  2. Francis Wilkey. Belmont County, Ohio, Probate case 3112. Ancestry.com. Ohio, Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. 
  3. S. Jones. Year: 1860; Census Place: Township 8 N Range 4 E, Effingham, Illinois; Page: 1067; Family History Library Film: 803176 AND Samule Jones. Year: 1870; Census Place: Moccasin, Effingham, Illinois; Roll: M593_219; Page: 480A; Family History Library Film: 545718 – via Ancestry.com. 
  4. Effingham County, Illinois, Deed Book N, page 154 – via FamilySearch.org. 
  5. Samuel Jones Family Bible record. Age is supported by census and other records. 
  6. Samuel Jones. The Adjutant General’s Report of Effingham County, Illinois Soldiers 1831-32, 1846-48, and 1861-66 1898-99, p. 22. Family History Library 977.3976 M2P. 
  7. Samuel Jones, Moccasin Township, Effingham, Illinois. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Consolidated Lists of Civil War Draft Registration Records (Provost Marshal General’s Bureau; Consolidated Enrollment Lists, 1863-1865); Record Group: 110, Records of the Provost Marshal General’s Bureau (Civil War); Collection Name: Consolidated Enrollment Lists, 1863-1865 (Civil War Union Draft Records); NAI: 4213514; Archive Volume Number: 3 of 4 – via Ancestry.com 
  8. Jones, Samuel. Co. A, 26 Illinois Infantry, Private. National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D. C. 

21 thoughts on “Did He Serve?

Add yours

    1. I really didn’t think he had served, but needed to prove the record wasn’t for him. This is a good example to illustrate that we need to analyze things carefully. I see many records misapplied to people in Ancestry trees.

      Sam Jones was much like his cousin, Robert Ransom: dedicated to achieving financial success. Enlisting in a war was not a good way to do that. Robert paid for a substitute to serve. I expect Sam did the same.

      Liked by 3 people

  1. This is one of those mysteries that makes me smile. I admire your research and detailed approach to investigating this question. I’d guess that not everyone who is into genealogical research is as thorough as you have been.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I suppose some people are more interested in establishing a pedigree of some sort. I have to be very diligent, because I’m writing a non-fiction book and I really need to understand what made these people tick (as best I can). Professional genealogists are even more diligent than me!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I am new-ish to ancestry research, but almost instantly discovered the headaches of common names. Case in point, my guy J.H. Hunter. Not only a common surname, but “hunter” as in “he who hunts with a bow and arrow or gun.” Makes searching the newspaper headlines a special treat. [note the ironic font I used there.]

    I’ve gotten used to the need to use qualifying statements. “As best as I can tell…” “He might be…” “I cannot be certain, but …”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, I have trouble with those sorts of names: Cutting, Pierce, Teach… Try doing searches for those and it’s overwhelming.

      Hedge words and phrases are absolutely essential in writing non-fiction, I’ve found. I collect them when I read!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. You did an impressive amount of digging there!
    This is somewhat related: My sister found a small Bible that belonged to one of our great-aunts who’s husband was a bigwig banker in a small Midwest town. A newspaper clipping of their engagement was in the Bible and it said he had been a general in the Civil War. I can’t remember his name right now but it wasn’t terribly common so I figured it would be easy to find. I also assumed he was Union because they lived in Minnesota. Yet I couldn’t find him on any directory for Civil War generals, either Union or Confederate.
    Only then did I get to wondering, if a guy in a small town claims to have been a general would anyone have questioned it?
    I mean, sure, maybe the directories I saw weren’t complete, but it does make you wonder.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. In the 19th century, men were quite fond of giving themselves military titles they never earned. Not that I’m saying that is necessarily the case for your great-aunt’s husband. But it wouldn’t be unheard of. I’d say that generals have been pretty well documented, so if you couldn’t find any evidence that he was one, chances are good that he wasn’t. Maybe he served in a lesser rank.

      Liked by 2 people

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